Auto Attendant Phone System: How Virtual Receptionists Can Optimize Your Support Services

Receiving too many business inquiries is one of the best problems to have. As your company gains more leads and reaches a broader audience, you may have to expand your customer relations operations to catch up.

This would primarily be a challenge for small or fast-growing companies. They may find it challenging to manage the number of incoming queries, so we recommend looking into automated answering systems for their business.

Set up an auto attendant phone system to assist in responding to customers. This can help you focus on what you do best and provide a professional caller experience to your leads. Learn more about its features and benefits below.

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What ss an Auto Attendant Phone System?

An automated attendant is a VoIP (voice over Internet Protocol) service that has digitized and optimized the phone call process, making it much more affordable and customizable to your needs.

Think of an auto attendant system as your virtual receptionist, a digital tool that allows you to receive and direct calls to the relevant specialist or department. With this, you can receive many incoming phone calls without overwhelming your client facers.

86% of US consumers prefer interacting with human support specialists over AI-based systems, but 10% also said they couldn’t tell the difference between them. The same study found that 69% of customers favor asking complex questions over the phone or a voice call. This makes an open line of communication critical to maintaining an amicable relationship between your team and the clients.

What Are the Main Features of Auto Attendant Systems?

A phone system with an automated attendant is beneficial for receiving and automating responses to your customers’ frequently asked questions.

The following are the central features that auto attendant systems have to offer:

  • Programmed to direct general inquiries to automated responses
  • Transfer inbound calls to support agents for complex concerns
  • Automatically forwards customers to the appropriate department instead of instructing them to call a different number
  • Message forwarding and remote access for digital nomads and freelance professionals
  • Unlimited voice mail for your internal queries, as well as virtual receptionist services for your clients
  • Inform customers about business hours, nearby branches, or other relevant news and changes
  • Holds a queue for callers for available customer service agents

Should Your Business Use a Phone Auto Attendant?

What circumstances require a business to use an automated answering system? 88% of small to midsize businesses (SMBs) have vouched for the benefits of automating operations, which they claim allows them to compete with larger companies.

With this, we can determine that it isn’t a matter of your business’s size. A small business can start investing in automation tools as soon as possible. Larger enterprises can ease their team's workload rather than struggle to keep up with it.

Organizations known to use automated answering systems include the following:

  • Technical support centers and call centers with quality control functions
  • Public safety and emergency services handling incoming calls to hospitals and fire or police departments
  • Restaurants with food delivery or reservation services
  • Entrepreneurs who require a virtual receptionist to receive their business calls

There will come a time, too, to move beyond simple automation tools to partnering with extensive customer service agencies. Look further into providers who can assist you better and compare answering services vs. call center services depending on what your operations require.

How Does an Auto Attendant Phone System Work?

  • Depending on the automated answering service, automated attendants have unique functions to streamline receiving business calls. You can expect a typical provider to have the following features:
  • Route calls efficiently and transfers inquiries to the appropriate specialists
  • Quickly inform customers of your business hours and potential changes to your schedule
  • Give a custom greeting to your customers to make an excellent first impression

How to Set Up a Phone Auto Attendant

There are various automated attendant phone systems, each offering different services and price ranges. Along with the above-mentioned general features you can expect, some also provide live receptionists, directory assistance for points of contact per department, metered plans instead of pricey unlimited plans, options for changeable phone numbers, and backup number settings in case of connection losses.

Once you find a provider that can give you the support you need and the offerings you prefer, what steps do you need to take in setting it up?

Step #1: Know Your Customer Query Processes

  • Before setting up your automated attendant phone system, take inventory of your team’s capabilities.
  • Establish a plan of action for receiving and directing calls
  • Assign people and form departments to be the designated specialists to answer customer inquiries
  • Equip your teams with business numbers to receive their calls
  • Provide the necessary assistance to your customers' needs

Step #2: Prepare a Standard and Script Your Client Facers Can Apply

With best practices and guidelines on how your team should receive calls and respond to inquiries. If your provider has a text-to-speech option, it can be as simple as selecting which one works best for your organization.

If you’ve selected an answering service provider with which you record your auto attendant’s responses, take the time to craft the most suitable answers. Remember that you may be handling sensitive concerns from your clients, so be mindful of this as you prepare your script.

Step #3: Set Up Call Paths for the Auto Attendant to Follow

Also known as call flows, think of these as the routes your callers will follow towards the customer service agent they can talk to. This is the primary function of your automated answering system, where your hard work is launched to your audience.

The automated attendant’s dialogue can guide your callers to the appropriate specialist with the audio recordings or text-to-speech you've prepared.

Step #4: Save Your Settings, Conduct Regular Checks and Update Accordingly

Remember that your automated answering system is still a machine, so once you’ve set everything up, be sure to save your progress. Take note of the configurations, and conduct regular updates when you apply changes to your business operations.

The Difference Between an Auto Attendant and IVR

An automated attendant phone system directs or routes incoming calls to the appropriate department or a specific agent assigned to assist with your customer’s concerns.

An interactive voice response (IVR) is similar to an automated answering system, except it doesn’t typically have a customer service agent for other concerns. It’s considered a more advanced version of an automated attendant that can respond to most, if not all, the customer’s queries thanks to a comprehensive input setup to route them to the necessary information.

As tech-savvy as it may seem for your business to have an IVR to first engage with your customer calls, more than 27% of them are more satisfied when reaching an agent from the get-go than those received by an IVR. The same source also found that 76% of customers prefer to call customer service rather than other means. The method preferred is emailing at 21%.

While using an IVR may help optimize response efforts from your team, it may not lead to the most satisfactory customer experience. After all, they prefer to call since they can be connected to a person they can interact with rather than a system that may not be able to address their concerns.

With this, you can also consider partnering with a comprehensive customer service provider whose call center SOP can provide an extensive list of features to cater to all incoming calls.

When Should You Get an Auto Attendant Phone System?

While we recommend setting up a phone system with an auto attendant for any business, below are excellent points to consider as you decide exactly when your company needs it:

You’re fielding several incoming calls from potential clients, more than your current team can manage

You’re building a virtual assistance business and developing your products to offer virtual receptionist services to your clients

You’re developing your business processes and want to delegate communications to dedicated point people so you can focus on your work

Key Takeaways to Automated Answering Systems

An automated attendant phone system is your organization’s virtual receptionist. Simply put, it routes incoming calls and streamlines the process for your team and clients. Upon receiving a call, your customer will be greeted, directed to the proper department, and queued until the next responder becomes available.

Other variations to this are the IVR or an offshore call center provider, both viable options you can consider depending on how comprehensive your answering services are.

With an automated answering system, your business can experience these benefits:

  • Automate and streamline your call receiving process to direct customers to the appropriate people
  • Set expectations with incoming callers about what your business can offer while also informing them of the volume of queries you’re receiving
  • Establish your operational hours and announce upcoming changes to your organization that your customers should know
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